Dreaming in purple

As we head into the new year, most of us spend some time thinking about the past year and dreaming about what the new year could be—what we want to accomplish, what we hope for those we love, and how we will rededicate ourselves to spending time with God. Today, print this coloring page and ...

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As we head into the new year, most of us spend some time thinking about the past year and dreaming about what the new year could be—what we want to accomplish, what we hope for those we love, and how we will rededicate ourselves to spending time with God. Today, print this coloring page and let yourself dream by writing your dreams, hopes, and prayers in the sections around the coloring image. If you’ll share some of your hopes in the comments below, I’ll pray with you.


PURPLE: With the energy of red and the integrity of blue, purple (also called violet) represents imagination and dreams, a link between the physical and spiritual. Ambitious and self-assured, violet shows creativity and imagination, inspiration and originality, and traditionally has been used to depict royalty.

Ruler of All, Your originality and creativity are unending. You’ve given me the ability to dream big and without limits. But no dream I have will ever fulfill me if You’re not the One inspiring it, the driving force and the creative energy behind it. Help me to see that You really are in all things. Just as purple is the combination of these two colors, You are both the passion and love of red and the stability and strength of blue. You provide imagination and desire. Help me dream, Lord, with the magnitude and vision befitting of a child of the King of kings. Let Your dreams for me become my own. And provide all that I need to make them come true. Amen.

(Purple info excerpted from Designed to Pray.)

Everything you could possibly ever need

Well, maybe it’s not an entirely exhaustive list :-). As you think about what you will study, how you might adjust your prayer life (journaling habits, Bible study, and so on), and what you hope to accomplish this year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of some resources that are available here ...

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Well, maybe it’s not an entirely exhaustive list :-). As you think about what you will study, how you might adjust your prayer life (journaling habits, Bible study, and so on), and what you hope to accomplish this year, I thought it might be helpful to give you a list of some resources that are available here on my site.

Prayer Prompt Calendars—every month I create a new calendar, roughly centered on a random theme. By subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter, you will receive the link to download each calendar as soon as it’s ready. Print this and hang it on your fridge, tack it on the wall by your computer, or keep it in your journal or Bible to help you jump-start your prayers—and hopefully, along the way, expand your awareness of the importance of prayer and the needs all around us. Here is this month’s calendar for you to check out (without subscribing)—hope you like it enough to sign up to get new ones every month!


Designed to Pray


Praying Upside Down


A to Z prayer cards*—print these free downloads and use to help incorporate learning into prayer time with your child…or just for yourself!


Wallpaper downloads for your phone on computer—currently, I only have one design available, but hope to create more soon!


10 Ways to Love” printable—a list of scriptures to remind us of what’s important—how to show love in our daily life. Available in gray or in white.


*If you’re not already a subscriber, you’ll have to sign up for my newsletter to access these.

 

A Prayer for When Christmas Has Lost Its Sparkle

Happy to be able to share this post at Crosswalk.com… Expectations abound at Christmastime. In every crowded store, colorfully-lit neighborhood, and Hallmark movie, sparkle and glitter and joy prevail. Marriages are miraculously saved, teenagers’ surly attitudes are softened, perfect gifts appear like magic under trees, generous strangers rescue people from financial worries, everyone sings happy ...

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Happy to be able to share this post at Crosswalk.com

Expectations abound at Christmastime. In every crowded store, colorfully-lit neighborhood, and Hallmark movie, sparkle and glitter and joy prevail. Marriages are miraculously saved, teenagers’ surly attitudes are softened, perfect gifts appear like magic under trees, generous strangers rescue people from financial worries, everyone sings happy songs, and goodwill is restored.

In reality, though, some of us struggle this time of year. Since I lost my mom five years ago, I tend to feel sadness and loneliness more than I feel joy. Some of you may have lost spouses to death or divorce. You may have children who don’t spend time with you or demand too much of you, or parents who aren’t themselves (or are no longer there). Maybe your job requires you to work rather than worship, or you have so many past-due notices you could wrap presents with them—if you could afford to buy presents. Perhaps you’re jaded, knowing that, as a believer, Christmas should be spiritually significant, but your emotions are crowded out by material excess and a to-do list a mile long.

So when Silent Night seems like a quaint, far-off dream… when Deck the Halls provides pressure to be Pinterest-perfect… when O Holy Night feels, instead, commercial and crazy… won’t you pray along with me?

Read the rest of the post here.

Seeing you, being seen, and seeing Him

My friend Tami and I are very different, although we’ve been close friends for years. We are on different ends of the spectrum politically and in many other ways. But the other day I met her for lunch and ended up pouring out my heart—how I feel, what emotions have come to the surface lately, ...

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My friend Tami and I are very different, although we’ve been close friends for years. We are on different ends of the spectrum politically and in many other ways. But the other day I met her for lunch and ended up pouring out my heart—how I feel, what emotions have come to the surface lately, and so on. I told her these things knowing she had different opinions, and she shared a little about where she’s coming from. We could do this because we were in a safe place—we both knew we were loved, differences and all, and we trusted each other to listen with an open heart.

It was a really healing moment for me. A reminder that differences don’t have to divide us.

One thing Tami and I have always had in common is we hate to be misunderstood. If you want to be mad at me, fine, but only if you’re basing it on the things I actually did or what I actually meant. We can’t rest until we’ve corrected mistaken impressions.

A big insight I’ve had lately is along those same lines: We all want to be seen and know that we’re heard.

[I promise this isn’t about the election… bear with me. REALLY. I promise. It has a God point and doesn’t take a stand about sides!]

I’ve heard analysts say that many thousands of people who supported our President-elect voted in large part because they felt like he understood their plight and was on their side. They supported him because for years they’ve felt overlooked by our government and media and now they feel as though they have finally been seen.

On the other hand, many who are disappointed about the results think that the people who voted the other way do not care about people of different colors, religions, sexual persuasions, and so on. And they want to be sure people understand the implications of that and what it means for the people who feel as though they’ve been overlooked.

See? Not politics.

It’s about being seen.

As I’ve been praying and thinking and talking and wrestling with my emotions and beliefs lately, I’ve landed here: Am I putting my money where my mouth is? Am I living the life and faith I believe we’re directed to live? I won’t go into all of those questions and ramifications—unless you have several hours to spare, you can thank me for that. But one of the conclusions I’ve reached is just what I said earlier. People want to be seen and understood. It’s a basic, driving force in human existence.

And it’s something we can affect, no matter who’s at the helm of this country.

In Psalm 139, David says:

“O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!
Psalm 139:1-6, NLT

Today, I’d like to suggest three basic steps towards healing, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum. Because the truth is we’re all on the same side. God’s banner over us is love. And it’s over all of us—people of all varieties and backgrounds and persuasions.

1) Spend time with God and be open about your conflicts, turmoil, confusion, anger, joy, frustration with acquaintances… whatever you’re feeling. Because He already knows you, and He created us to live in relationship. We grow closer to God when we share with Him who we are. Healing happens when we get real with God, and time in His presence can bring clarity and peace.

2) Seek out time with a trusted friend. You certainly don’t have to talk politics. Share your life. Let yourself feel safe and understood. God created us to live in relationship, and healing often takes place in community, rarely alone.

3) Reach out to someone today and let them know they are seen. It doesn’t require a personal or controversial discussion—simply pay attention to the people around you. Praise your child for a small act of kindness. Kiss your husband on the cheek and thank him for taking out the trash. Compliment the server at a restaurant for her efficiency. Tell a stranger you like her sense of style.

One person at a time, we can begin to change our understanding, to recognize the beliefs that drive a person. We can make a difference one life, one moment, one baby step at a time. And over time, as this kindness and generosity of spirit spreads, maybe—just maybe—it will impact the toxic environment in which we live.

Because people will be seen. And in the process, they will see the love that drives us, and it will point them to the God who inspires us.

Dear Precious Lord, help us today. Soften our hearts toward others. Increase our compassion. Enlighten our understanding. Thank You for seeing us and knowing us. Thank You for caring. Thank You for being our safe place to turn. You are mighty and altogether lovely—and I want to show You to others through the way I care for them. Help me. Teach me. Go with me. Amen.

If my people will pray…

It’s finally here—election day. It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer. If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a ...

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It’s finally here—election day.

It’s been a rough few months, hasn’t it? Lots of division and debate—but if there is one thing I think we can all agree on during this volatile time, it is that our country desperately needs prayer.

If you’re anything like me, though, you may be intimidated when facing such a huge need. Where do we even begin? We step away from politics and parties and begin at the Rock. Our firm foundation. The unchanging, ever-stable Word of God.

Will you please join me in prayer for our country?

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people…

Wherever we go, whatever we do, we have to remember that we belong to God. We are His children. Let’s pray that our relationship with Him will define us and guide us, and that we will come together as one “people” in unity with the sole purpose of bringing glory to God.

who are called by my name…

Those who do not know God will form an opinion about Him based on our behavior and words. There’s a responsibility attached to this privilege we’ve been given, and we need to structure our behavior accordingly. Pray that we will faithfully represent God in all that we do.

 will humble themselves …

None of us likes to be wrong. It hurts our pride to admit we’re wrong. But the first step in a relationship with God is humility—recognition that we cannot do this without Him, nor do we have the abilities and the character that He does. In my faith walk, God has rarely let me be “right,” even when the facts seem to be on my side—because in my determination to be right, ugly characteristics like pride and judgment surface. Pray for our leaders—and for all of us, individually and collectively—to approach our positions with humility and an appropriate reverence for God.

and pray and seek my face …

How many of us log in to social media before we’ve thought to say good morning to God? How often do we complain to a friend and do everything we can think of to fix a problem before remembering to turn to God in prayer? Pray that God will help us earnestly seek Him in all that we do. Pray that God will renew our desire to serve Him and know Him and ignite that fire in others, too.

and turn from their wicked ways…

Many are distraught about the state of our country and world. About the political candidates’ behavior or character, the faith choices we have to make in order to vote, and the culture and permissiveness that have led us to this place. There’s plenty “out there” to critique—but true change starts from within. Let’s repent and then ask God to help us see clearly according to His values, His teachings, and His perspective. Let’s be open to letting Him change us as the first step towards a better country for our children and their children to live in.

then I will hear from heaven…

Many of us feel powerless to effect real or lasting change, but God does have the power to transform any situation in the blink of an eye. In spite of the fact that each of us is simply one among a multitude, and He is omnipotent and omnipresent, God listens when we reach out for Him. We have an advocate with the Father, Christ Jesus. Let’s give thanks for God for inviting us to come to Him and then praise Him for hearing and answering our prayers.

and I will forgive their sin …

No sin is too great to keep us from God. This is a promise He has made to us all. Because God is so holy, so perfect, beyond all of our imaginings, and we are not, we shouldn’t be able to stand in His presence. Our sin and His holiness are like water and oil, never mixing—but because of Jesus, now they do. Let’s go to God in prayer to ask for His forgiveness, individually and collectively.

and will heal their land.

This is the core of what many of us want, a nation without serious divides. A place that upholds the freedoms on which our country was founded, allowing us to serve God according to our individual beliefs. We long for a society that places value on integrity and hard work and high moral values, and yet still respects the differences that are a foundational part of who we are. Let’s pray that God will heal our country in powerful ways, restoring, reuniting, repairing, and renewing us. Fixing what is broken, and teaching us to work together to make something that is better than ever before.

When we come together in prayer, there are no limits to what we can accomplish. Pray with me to the One who hears from heaven.

Lord, You are mighty and magnificent, compassionate and generous. Just as Jesus granted forgiveness before he healed the sick, putting the soul before the body, we ask the same thing. Forgive us, God, and heal the soul of our nation. We come to you, earnestly and humbly, knowing we’re asking for a large thing, but fully aware that You are a big God. Nothing is too hard for You. Our hearts overflow with gratitude for the privilege of having access to the King of Kings. Help us bring glory to Your Name in all that we do. Inspire us to new levels of greatness. We know that none of this is possible without You, and we ask for your mercy and grace over this great nation. Amen.


productgraphic_nov2016calendarWill you join me the rest of this month in praying for healing for our country and turning our hearts towards gratitude for Thanksgiving? Download my free November prayer prompt calendar here by subscribing to my monthly e-newsletter. Even if you don’t, I hope we can come together to lift up our country as we navigate through these next days together.


This post was written for Internet Café Devotions.

Why you need to go buy a newspaper right now. (And not for the kind of reason you’re expecting.)

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I ...

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[I am not debating any issues or discussing either candidate or their followers, so please don’t be afraid to read on.]

This week, to prepare for leading the group study of my book, Designed to Pray, I did one of the exercises from the book. It sounds simple—but I’d never actually physically done what I suggested.

The basic idea is this: Take a newspaper and a marker. Go through the paper and write your prayers on top of the news stories as you pray.

That’s it. Sounds simple enough, right?

But let me tell you: It was powerful. Not because of me—at all—but because God is in it whenever we genuinely seek Him.

If you’re anything like me, you are troubled by this election. And for me, it’s not just the election or the candidates or the issues. My turmoil is all tied up in my beliefs about what Christianity is or should be and how we, as Christians, are called to represent God. It’s concern about how we’re acting, how people outside the church have come to view Christians, whether we’re living what we believe, etc. It’s complicated and discouraging. I can get so worked up so easily. These are big, big picture thoughts with long-ranging implications. Sometimes it feels like it’s all just too much.

But this exercise put things back into perspective.

Especially because I happened to write the words in red marker (just as the words of Jesus are often printed in red). My prayers are not the powerful part of this. It’s the image, the physical and tangible representation, of God’s ways and God’s power and God’s promises having the final word.

It’s about stepping back and realizing that God is bigger than these issues.

It’s about praying with an open heart, one turned towards God, that helps me see something less personally and more from God’s perspective.

It’s about taking our prayers away from the “I wants” and turning them into “thy will be done.”

It’s about remembering that, whatever happens, God is in control. He has overcome the world already. He is victorious. Nothing is too large that He cannot stop it. Nothing is too complicated that He cannot fix it. Nothing we or anyone could do will ever thwart the good and perfect will of God.

Honestly, I can’t begin to see what good could possibly come from so many of these situations. But what I do know is that no one on earth is perfect. Our leaders can fail. Our fellow Christians can fall. Our faith may waver from time to time.

But God remains on the throne. He is always God, and always good.

So let me encourage you, before this election (or anytime after), get a newspaper, even if you have to go to the store just to buy one. You can do this mentally with online or TV news, but I don’t think anything can replace the act of writing over the news. It gives us a way to feel as though we’ve regained a little bit of control. It lets us see that, no matter how important these events are, God is greater.

And right now, I think all of us could stand a little bit of peace in our souls.


Here is the actual excerpt from the book.

How to Pray When the World Overwhelms You

I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.
But take heart, because I have overcome the world. —John 16:33

Call me an ostrich, if you will, because I spend more time with my head buried in the sand than above it. When I read or watch the news, my soul withers. My heart hurts, and sorrow overwhelms me. Not all news is bad, of course, but that seems to be what is always emphasized. I need to remember—and maybe you do too—that although we will face all kinds of horrific things, devastation does not get the final word. God does. He triumphs in the end, and we have to hold on to that truth, whatever horrors or evils we witness.

DIRECTIONS: Pick up a newspaper and a magic marker. As you skim the stories, let yourself feel anger or grief, sadness or righteous indignation. But don’t let yourself get bogged down by despair, because God is bigger than every single one of these stories. Take your marker and pen your prayer right over the stories. Heal her. Bring hope. Shine Your light. Help me not to despair. Reveal Yourself. Restore. Renew. Fix it, Lord. Show mercy. Bring justice. Redeem lost time. Thank You.

(Taken from Week 7 Day 3 of Designed to Pray)

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Need a little hope today?

Just wanted to send this little reminder today… when you’re struggling with something, large or small, take a minute to pray. The very act of prayer is motivated by hope, and it will make a difference. If you need specific prayer, please send me an email (kellyostanley@me.com). I’d be honored to pray for you....

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Just wanted to send this little reminder today… when you’re struggling with something, large or small, take a minute to pray. The very act of prayer is motivated by hope, and it will make a difference. If you need specific prayer, please send me an email (kellyostanley@me.com). I’d be honored to pray for you.

Prayer for those stuck in a rut

This is for all of you people out there who love God but sometimes get bored. Who have had good prayer lives but sometimes feel like you’ve lost that spark. Will you please pray with me? Lord, I love you, I do. That has never changed. I long to grow closer to you. I’m excited ...

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This is for all of you people out there who love God but sometimes get bored. Who have had good prayer lives but sometimes feel like you’ve lost that spark. Will you please pray with me?


Lord, I love you, I do. That has never changed. I long to grow closer to you. I’m excited by the new things I discover in Your word, by the way I see You in prayer and in the changed lives around me.

But I don’t know how to maintain my passion for you. I struggle with staying focused and purposeful in prayer without falling into a rut.

Remind me that I don’t have to have the answers. That You will give me the ones I need, and that the other ones don’t matter.

Reveal Yourself to me in new ways all the time. Let me know You better and better. When I don’t hear from You, or when I feel dry and parched, let me know that doesn’t mean You’re not with me.

Renew my passion for You in ways that will wake up something in my spirit. Excite me, fill my mind with ideas, fill my heart with so much love for You that I can’t just sit back and keep it to myself.

Let me learn that prayer is valuable and I can’t have a good relationship with You without it. But at the same time, don’t let me squander it. I was never meant to keep You all to myself. Prayer equips me to reach out to others, so it shouldn’t stay within the walls of my house. Faith should be active—real, hands-on involvement in changing lives, in helping people carry their burdens, in pointing people to You as the answer for all of their questions and needs.

When I start to have doubts, when I feel bored, when I wonder if it’s worth the effort, help me to remember. Let me look back at the times when I have seen prayers answered in surprising and creative ways. Help me to recall the moments of insight, the surges of passion, the large and small changes You’ve helped me make in my life since I found You.

And when I get too focused on myself—on what I want and need and feel—gently nudge me until I notice the enormity of Your kingdom, the beauty of Your righteousness, the hope that You bring to hopeless and tragic situations, the love that You shower on all your people.

This faith of mine isn’t just for me. It’s meant to change me, and in turn, to change the lives of others. It’s meant to be a witness to nonbelievers, pointing them to the One they long to know. It’s intended to prepare me to live for You—which means to draw people together, to form lasting relationships, to model a content and joyful life. To show people what life can be like when we let You in, when we hand over the controls and break down those barriers and yield all power to You.

It’s exciting to contemplate all that You are and all that my relationship with You can be. I don’t have to bring the passion in to this relationship; I just need to open my heart to You and the passion will come. The ruts won’t feel constraining, but will instead guide me to exactly where I need to be. The boredom will turn to adventure. And You will make all things new. Because You are the God of possibility, of expansion, of miraculous change and surprising answers. And oh how I love You!

In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Would you like a colorful reminder to get your prayers started every day? Subscribe to my newsletter at www.kellyostanley.com/downloads or in the sidebar to the right, and you can download monthly prayer prompt calendars (and other freebies). 

Prayer for all of us during this election

Lord, I confess that this election season is the first time I’ve let other people’s stances on political issues change the way I feel about them. I used to pride myself on being open to other opinions, on looking for similarities rather than differences. On my ability to separate someone’s opinion from who they are. I ...

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Lord, I confess that this election season is the first time I’ve let other people’s stances on political issues change the way I feel about them. I used to pride myself on being open to other opinions, on looking for similarities rather than differences. On my ability to separate someone’s opinion from who they are.

I don’t like being this way. I am critical. Judgmental. And, honestly, perpetually shocked by the perspectives I see and hear, in person and on social media. It’s ugly.

I have tried to understand where others are coming from and justify their points of view. I have attempted to initiate discussions to understand why they feel the way they do. I honestly don’t understand how, on certain issues, they cannot see what I do. I feel like it’s become us versus them—but I don’t like thinking of any group of people as them, as the other. We’re supposed to be in this together. When did we forget that?

I’ve tried to be smart about when to speak up and when not to. To discern when my opinions will be treated with respect and when I would simply be stirring the pot.

But all I can seem to do is stir the pot. Whether I’m trying to or not.

I don’t want to cause trouble and division and unrest. But, honestly, part of me feels as though “they” are so misguided that it’s my responsibility to speak some truth. To call out hatred and ugliness and ideas and statistics that have been shown to be incorrect. To defend my religion when I see people claiming to follow You but acting nothing like You. To help right some of the many wrongs I see. To take steps towards mending the extreme rift that has grown in our country, separating and dividing us, pulling us apart instead of together.

I’m in a perpetually bad mood. I’m weary and frustrated, and I’m feeling hopeless, and I’ve let it affect me. Am I so determined to be right that I’ve forgotten basic human decency?

It comes down to this: I am genuinely frightened for our country. I am afraid that this election will forever change who we are as a people and that we won’t be able to come back together and heal. I am terrified that this atmosphere of division and distrust and disregard for truth will become the norm. And I don’t know if I can live with that.

I genuinely don’t know what to do with that.

So, at long last, I’m doing what I should have done all along—I’m coming to You, God. I’m begging for Your mercy. I’m asking for Your forgiveness. I’m longing for Your wisdom.

Give me the humility to realize that while I pray this about my friends, probably some of them are praying this about me. This isn’t my problem or their problem; it is ours.

You are defined by Your love for people. All people. You loved us before we came to You. You love us even while we sin. You never give up. You don’t withhold Yourself when we act stupidly, but gently correct us.

Will You do that now? Will You speak to our hearts—all of us—and show us what matters?

Will You help me to love people whose opinions drastically diverge from my own?

Will You remind me that we are multi-faceted creatures who should not be defined by one thing?

Will You help us to listen to each other’s stories and hurts and experiences with compassion, not defensiveness or anger?

Will You help us, as Christians, act according to Your teachings? Will You show us how to live lives worthy of this calling? Will You help us accept those who are different from us and, most of all, would You let others see You in the way we love people? Would You help us to be upright, godly witnesses and share love, not hate? Unity, not division? Peace, not strife?

Will You help each of us look at the issues clearly, not through our existing lenses of bias? Will You help us land on the opinions that most closely align with Your standards? Will You release us from an attitude of judgment and condemnation and make us free to love?

Will You heal us? Forgive us? Lead us?

Because one truth that keeps getting lost in all the turmoil is this: You are our leader. You are the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and that is never affected in the slightest by who holds the title of President. Your reign is without end. Your glory is without limits. Your uprightness cannot be questioned. Your compassion and inclusion are legendary. Your love is limitless. You never mistreat anyone. You don’t rejoice in wrongdoing and in false accusations. Unlike our candidates, You are not flawed. Your judgment is impeccable. Your every act is holy and righteous. You are so far above us that I have trouble believing You want anything to do with us.

But You do want us. Even though we don’t deserve it. Even though we act deplorably at times. Yes, we. Not just others, but me, too.

Help us rest in the security of Your love for us. Let us soak up Your grace and abide in peace. Let us see the value in each other.

Remind us that You are bigger than all of this. That You are in control and that You remain on the throne. That You already know what will happen, and that no matter what the outcome of the election is, You’ve got this.

You hold us in the palm of Your hand. And You don’t put Democrats in one hand and Republicans in the other. You don’t separate men/women. Or whites/blacks. Or gay/straight. Or Muslims/Christians. Or pro-choice/anti-abortion. Or liberal/conservative. In Your eyes, we are all the same in one critical respect: We belong to You. We are Yours.

Help us to act like it and let this reality finally transform our attitudes and behavior. 

Change us, Lord. Make us better than all of this. Make us more like You.

In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

Inspired by Kevin Bacon to connect the dots in prayer

I took a humanities course during my freshman year of college. As much as I now love to read and write, discussing classic literature right after lunchtime made me especially sleepy—warm classroom, full tummy, and the lack of sleep caused by the near all-nighters I pulled regularly as an architecture major. But one day the lesson woke me up because my professor was ...

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I took a humanities course during my freshman year of college. As much as I now love to read and write, discussing classic literature right after lunchtime made me especially sleepy—warm classroom, full tummy, and the lack of sleep caused by the near all-nighters I pulled regularly as an architecture major.

But one day the lesson woke me up because my professor was describing stream of consciousness. Developed by a group of writers in the early twentieth century, it was meant to express the flow of thoughts and feelings in a character’s mind. It relates to the way one thought triggers another and then another, and before you know it, you’re in a whole new place. I thought, Finally! That’s what you call the way I think!

If “stream of consciousness” sounds too fancy, think about “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.” It’s a game based on the concept of six degrees of separation, which supposes that any two people on earth are six or fewer acquaintance links apart. In this game, people challenge each other to find the shortest path between an arbitrary actor and Kevin Bacon.

You can put this thought process—the concept of making connections and seeing how interrelated we all are—to work in your prayers. Because we’re all connected, one way or another.

DIRECTIONS: Write the name of someone important to you in the center of the page. Who or what is connected to that person? His or her children? Businesses? Relatives? Spouse? Draw lines from the original name, connecting them to others. Thoughts of one child might make you think of someone else’s child. Draw lines between them. Praying for one friend’s marriage may remind you of another couple who needs prayer. Diagram the trajectory of your prayers, noticing the parallels and intersections.

Look below at two samples—one centering on my pastors and best friends, Nathan and Peggy, and one centering on a concept (in this case, marriage). Experiment with different starting points and see where your mind takes you. Click here to download a blank worksheet or just start mapping your prayers on a blank sheet of paper.

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Designed to Pray coverThe exercise above is from Week 3 | Day 3 of my new book, Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage with God. I hope you’ll take a minute to check it out. It’s a different kind of book. Whether you’ve been praying for a long time or are just beginning to, this eight-week adventure will infuse passion and creativity into your communication with God. Filled with daily activities—everything from coloring pages to writing prompts to doodling—it’s an innovative way to start viewing God, the world around you, and your faith with a new perspective.

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